EDDIE VAN HALEN has opened up about his cancer diagnosis over a decade ago and his subsequent recovery, blaming his condition on his guitar picks. He underwent a course of treatment for tongue cancer in 2000 and was declared free of the disease two years later, though about a third of his tongue was removed in surgery.

In a new interview with Billboard, the 60 year old has said that, while he has now quit smoking, he believes his diagnosis might have been down to when used to habitually hold his spare guitar picks in his mouth during sets. “I used metal picks - they’re brass and copper - which I always held in my mouth, in the exact place where I got the tongue cancer,” Van Halen said.

Eddie Van HalenEddie Van Halen spoke to Billboard about his cancer diagnosis in 2000

The influential guitarist, who founded the hard rock legends Van Halen (after himself, as a lot of musicians did in the ‘80s), is often considered to be one of the greatest of all time. Indeed, in 2012, readers of Guitar World voted him the best ever in the history of rock, beating Queen’s Brian May.

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“Plus, I basically live in a recording studio that’s filled with electromagnetic energy,” he continued, “so that’s one theory. I mean, I was smoking and doing a lot of drugs and a lot of everything. But at the same time, my lungs are totally clear. This is just my own theory, but the doctors say it’s possible.”

Van Halen’s first six albums probably constitute the most successful run in Billboard history, selling a combined 34 million copies in the US up to 1984. Vocalist David Lee Roth departed at that point, causing the group to relaunch with Sammy Hagar as singer. Several acrimonious line-up changes later, Roth is back fronting the group with its reunion tour, the only difference from the ‘classic’ line-up being Van Halen’s son Wolfgang on bass rather than Michael Anthony.

Speaking about his relationship with Roth, Van Halen claims it basically doesn’t exist. “He does not want to be my friend,” he told Billboard abruptly. “How can I put this: Roth’s perception of himself is different than who he is in reality. We’re not in our 20s anymore. We’re in our 60s. Act like you’re 60. I stopped coloring my hair, because I know I’m not going to be young again.”

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